Mercer Leads the Nation with Three Engineering Goldwater Scholars

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2020 Goldwater Scholars

MACON – Mercer University leads all U.S. higher education institutions in the number of engineering students who received this year’s Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship with three winners of the nation’s most prestigious scholarship for undergraduates in science, mathematics and engineering.

Juniors Michelle Graham and McPherson Newell and sophomore Maison Clouatre are among 396 college sophomores and juniors from across the U.S. – including 18 from Georgia institutions – to be awarded the scholarship for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Graham, Newell and Clouatre bring the University’s total number of winners to 12 over the past eight years, making Mercer one of the state’s leading producers of Goldwater Scholars.

A total of 1,343 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 461 academic institutions to compete for the 2020 Goldwater Scholarship. Of those Scholars who reported, 191 are men, 203 are women and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their highest degree objective. Fifty Scholars are mathematics and computer science majors, 287 are majoring in the natural sciences, and 59 are majoring in engineering.

The one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

“The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier program for recognizing America’s best young scientists and engineers. Applicants undergo a rigorous application process during which they must highlight their knowledge of their own research area and demonstrate their commitment to pursuing a career in research,” said Dr. Adam Kiefer, Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry and Goldwater Scholarship faculty representative at Mercer. “This award is not only a testament to these students’ hard work, intelligence and determination, but also recognizes their potential as future researchers.”

Michelle Graham

Michelle Graham

Graham, from Tampa, Florida, is majoring in environmental engineering with a minor in engineering for development. She plans to obtain a Ph.D. in environmental engineering and teach at a major university while conducting research related to sustainable infrastructure.

“I’m honored to receive the Goldwater Scholarship, and I’m so excited for the opportunities that this award will bring me in my academic and professional careers. This award will open doors for me to continue to complete meaningful research and make a positive impact in the world,” said Graham. “I’m incredibly grateful to my mentors, Dr. Michael MacCarthy, Dr. Laura Lackey, Dr. Adam Daigneault and Dr. Adam Kiefer. They have been invaluable in my academic and research endeavors, and without them I would not have had this opportunity.”

Graham conducts research in the lab of Dr. Michael MacCarthy, assistant professor and director of the engineering for development program, involving efficient building design and energy use to create affordable renewable energy options for middle- to low-income homeowners. This work involves the implementation and investigation of a low-cost solar photovoltaic starter kit that can be installed on the home by a homeowner or local technician and later expanded to produce more energy. The research team is collaborating with Macon Area Habitat for Humanity to install and monitor one of these systems.

Graham is a Stamps Scholar, Hollings Scholar and member of the School of Engineering Honors Program and Society of Women Engineers.

“Michelle is an outstanding, dedicated student who is passionate about improving the environment and human livelihoods. She has excelled in her coursework and in her roles in environmental engineering research and service at Mercer,” said Dr. MacCarthy. “This includes her valuable research and service contributions as the student lead for Mercer’s collaboration with Macon Area Habitat for Humanity that focuses on the design and implementation of low-cost household solar photovoltaic energy solutions.”

McPherson Newell

McPherson Newell

Newell, from Augusta, is majoring in biomedical engineering. They plan to obtain a master’s degree in disability studies and a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and pursue a professorship in rehabilitation engineering at a research university, where they will conduct research on low-cost assistive technology and create research opportunities for LGBTQ+ and disabled students.

“I am incredibly honored to be named a 2020 Goldwater Scholar and deeply grateful for the support of my mentors, including Dr. Michael MacCarthy, Dr. Ann Reinthal, Dr. Laura Lackey and Mrs. Monica Resto-Fernandez,” said Newell. “They have all offered me invaluable research opportunities, mentorship and encouragement. I am dedicated to providing the same support to other disabled and LGBTQ+ students in STEM throughout my career, and I am thrilled to receive the Goldwater Scholarship Foundation’s support.”

Newell conducts research in the lab of Dr. MacCarthy on forearm rollators, wheeled mobility devices with platform rests for users’ forearms which allow the user to stand upright and offload weight from the lower body into the upper body. The long-term goal of this project is to promote a forearm rollator design that is covered by Medicaid and Medicare so the device will be financially accessible to potential users. To this end, the research team is conducting a comparative gait study to examine the kinematics of using a commercially available forearm rollator and a standard rollator in order to determine the biomechanical differences in gait using each device.

Newell is a Stamps Scholar, president of Common Ground, the University’s LGBTQ+ and ally organization, and co-chair of the Rainbow Connection Committee, a student-led initiative to provide Mercer faculty and staff with information and resources to create an affirming environment for LGBTQ+ students. They have received the Department of Mathematics Outstanding Student Award and a Mercer Visionary Student Panel grant and been named a Newman Civic Fellow and a Truman Scholarship finalist.

“McPherson has contributed enormously to developing rehabilitation engineering research and service activities within our engineering for development group,” said Dr. MacCarthy. “Their perseverance and commitment to developing low-cost mobility and accessibility solutions can lead to improved quality of life for disabled and elderly people. I expect that with their intellect and rare leadership skills that their work will end up having a significant positive impact both in the U.S. and internationally.”

Maison Clouatre

Maison Clouatre

Clouatre, from Demorest, is majoring in electrical engineering with a minor in mathematics. He plans to obtain a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering and develop the next generation of intelligent control systems as a researcher and professor at a research-intensive university.

“I am most humbled to receive this award alongside the great Mercerians who have received and applied for this award before me,” said Clouatre. “It is only because of the investment Mercer and my mentors have made in me that I may now call myself a Goldwater Scholar. I am endlessly grateful for my teacher and friend, Dr. Makhin Thitsa, for exposing me to the great mathematics that now fuel my passion for control theory. I also extend my gratitude to Dr. John Valasek at Texas A&M and Mr. Lee Evans at Georgia Tech Research Institute for their continued mentorship and guidance.”

Clouatre conducts research in the lab of Dr. Thitsa, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, developing intelligent control systems. These are unique from traditional control systems in that they must use data to learn the underlying dynamics of the systems in which they control – hence they are “intelligent.” In collaboration with Dr. Thitsa, Clouatre has applied these methods to laser microscopes, unmanned aerial vehicles and city traffic networks.

Clouatre has held visiting research positions at the Vehicle Systems and Control Laboratory in Texas A&M’s School of Aerospace Engineering and at the Georgia Tech Research Institute. He has published two peer-reviewed journal articles on the control techniques he has developed and has two additional articles currently under review. His work has been presented at the Photoluminescence in Rare Earth Materials Conference in Nice, France, the Materials Research Society’s Fall Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium in Houston, Texas.

He is a Stamps Scholar, a member of the School of Engineering Honors Program, and has served as a supplemental instruction (SI) leader for physics and built analog guitar amplifiers for Mercer Music at Capricorn.

“Maison is an outstanding researcher; he is extremely creative in his approach to research problems, well-versed in current control literature and he understands the current trends and challenges in the field,” said Dr. Thitsa. “He has incredible problem-solving skills, learns at an exponential rate and possesses an unparalleled passion for research.”

Goldwater Scholars have impressive academic and research credentials that have garnered the attention of prestigious postgraduate fellowship programs. Previous Scholars have been awarded 93 Rhodes Scholarships, 146 Marshall Scholarships, 170 Churchill Scholarships, 109 Hertz Fellowships and numerous other distinguished awards like the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on Nov. 14, 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Sen. Barry Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

About the School of Engineering

Mercer University’s School of Engineering, founded in 1985, offers innovative and academically challenging programs that provide students with a comprehensive education, featuring a solid foundation in mathematics and sciences, a core engineering curriculum, a range of courses in engineering specialties and a strong emphasis on communication technologies. The School is consistently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top three master’s-degree-level engineering schools in the Southeast. Known for its breadth of instruction in its undergraduate program and its five-year joint bachelor’s and master’s degree program, the School combines technical education with hands-on laboratory experience. Mercer engineers can look forward to joining fellow alumni in companies such as Robins Air Force Base, Mercer Engineering Research Center, Northrop Grumman, Georgia Power, Manhattan Associates and Gulfstream Aerospace.

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Kyle Sears